One more memory of Ben Puckett's kindness
Ben Puckett was a big-time giver: to Mississippi State, to the U.S. Olympic effort, to your Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, to his employees and to countless other causes and relief efforts.
He grew up poor, made himself wealthy and then did all he could to make better the lives of other folks.
“People will never ever know, and Ben never wanted people to know, all he has done behind the scenes,” said close friend Cal Wells. “Ben was a giver for all the right reasons.”
Puckett loved children and doted on them. Those who know him best say that he loved to make kids happy because he never had much of a childhood himself. He worked to help put food on the table and shoes on his feet as a young lad.
Sometimes, I think small kindnesses — as much as writing big checks — show the true virtue of a person.
I’ll give you just one up-close-and-personal example of Ben’s kindness.
This was 14 years ago when I had a book of columns that had just been published and I was selling and signing them at a Mississippi State baseball game. My daughter, Annie, 9 years old at the time, was my one-person sales staff. She handed out the books, collected the money, and counted out change — while I signed and chatted.
At one point in the afternoon, a slow time in the selling of books, Ben stopped by and was smitten at once by Annie, who was smitten at once by Ben.
“You selling many books, honey?” Ben asked.
“Not any more,” Annie answered.
So Ben proceeded to tell Annie how much he enjoyed her daddy’s writing and that he needed to buy some books for Christmas gifts. This, by the way, was in April or May.
“How good is your math, honey?” Ben asked Annie.
She responded something to the effect that math wasn’t her best subject but she tried really hard, which was the gospel truth.
“How much are these books?” Ben asked, picking one up and looking at it.
Annie told him.
“Well, if you can figure out how much 15 of them will cost me, that’s how many I want to buy,” Ben said.
I wish you could have seen the smile on Annie’s face. I wish you could have seen the smile on Ben’s face while he watched her get serious and start doing the math. She had to erase a couple of times but she beamed when she came up with the price.
“That comes to (whatever it was),” Annie said.
“Sounds about right to me,” Ben said.
“Will you take a check?” Ben asked.
Annie looked at me. I told her I was pretty sure Mr. Ben was good for it.
Annie counted out 15 books, a stack that was about as big as she was. Ben wrote the check.
“Pleasure doing business with you young lady,” Ben said, smiling.
Annie grinned back, obviously quite proud of herself.
And I still don’t know who enjoyed it more: Annie or Ben. Or me.
Friends and family filled St. James Episcopal Church for the funeral service of Ben Puckett Wednesday. It was an uplifting service, much deserved.
Memorials may be made to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, 1152 Lakeland Dr., Jackson, MS 39216.